Saturday, December 20, 2008

Geology is learned through the soles of your shoes, not the seat of your pants!

2001 - 2008

These boots came into my life from a shoe rack at the Anchorage REI in May of 2001. I had traveled to Alaska to start a geology internship for Alaska State Parks at Independence Mine State Historic Park and found myself quite unprepared in the shoe department. The hiking boots I had bought in high school were not going to hack it there. So we made the trip into Anchorage where I bought the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever bought in my entire life. Still. They were a great pair of boots and my feet stayed dry all summer (through the snow, muck, and soggy ground - and it rained, quite a bit). I never even got a single blister from them. Not one!

These boots and I have seen alot together. They were on my feet that summer in Alaska when I was stung just above the left boot tongue by two ground hornets. I wore them on innumerable geology field trips as I finished up my undergrad degree and later on as I worked on my MS. I wore them on my first hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. They were with me all through field camp, for miles and miles. They helped keep my feet safe from all the wonderful sharp plants while hiking in Big Bend to and from my master’s thesis field site (and many others field sites). They were with me every day as I hiked through Glacier National Park during my first post-graduation job. I wore them in the Badlands of Utah and Nebraska while fossil prospecting with friends. I even took these wonderful boots to Japan with me and wore them as I hiked up Mt. Fuji. They were with me as I summited my first 14er in Colorado, hiked down into the Grand Canyon, and as I made it up to the Walcott Quarry/Burgess Shale. We have hunted for fossils together thousands of times and surveyed countless outcrops. They kept my feet dry and warm, bite and blister free. I do not think I will ever be able to replace them. Letting them go is one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. But they will always live on, in my memory. When I think back on all of the great times we spent together, I am reminded of a quote my former professor Walter Manger would say:

"Geology is learned through the soles of your shoes, not the seat of your pants!"

These shoes saw their last days working on an outcrop in central Utah. I knew their soles were getting thin, but I did not realize their time was so near. I tried to help them with some ducktape, but not even that could hold them together. And in the end, time won. I know in their company I have learned a great many things! And I am glad they could be my partner through this wonderful learning experience and I appreciate all they have done for me. I WILL MISS YOU BOOTS!


MDR said...

Back in the early 1990's I found a pair of Nunn Bush boots at Famous Footwear that were so immediately comfortable that I went back the next week and bought a second pair for future replacement. The first pair lasted through at least a dozen years of hikes, field trips to the Badlands and Black Hills, Wyoming and Colorado, video and photo shoots, and harsh Minnesota winters. The first pair finally expired last year and the second pair has been hauled out of the closet to replace them. I only wish I had purchased a third pair.

Anonymous said...

Got that right!

Anonymous said...

That is a great quote ... I'll have to remember that one.

Anonymous said...

If the uppers are in good condition you can get new soles put on, just as good as new. Any good shoe repair should be able to do it, for much less than new boots cost. When the basalts of Eastern Washington wore down the last of the tread on my beloved hiking boots I got them resoled and they lasted several more years. My favorite pair of Red Wing boots lasted through 3 new soles over the years before the uppers finally wore out. New soles and insoles might be all your boots need.

ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

MDR: I have a pair of low top hiking boots that I have an extra brand new pair for the day I need them. But I only just got the original pair in the spring of 2007 and I pretty much only wear them in the quarry and such.

JSB: I will have to look into that. the uppers are in good shape. The soles were Vibram. I had wondered in the back of my mind if hey could replace the soles. I had the soles of my Chacos replaced this past summer and they are back to wonderful :)

Sergio said...


I totally relate to your feelings about your boots. I did have to say goodbye to my favorite pair of Timberlands (the real ones, not the trendy-urban they sell now) a few years back. They took care of me through the Sierra Nevada, the jungles of Costa Rica and the Andes of Peru. Never complained to me about a thing, not even about the duct tape. Like a good friend I still feel their presence with me.